I was lucky to attend a dinner recently at which Levi Dalton poured a large selection of Jean-François Ganevat's wines. Domaine Ganevat is in the Jura, in a town called Rotalier. I could try to describe the estate for you, but I would just be sourcing Joe Salamone's excellent article on the Crush website. In a nutshell - this guy is a thoughtful farmer who makes very small quantities of more than 40 wines. His goal is to show the most specific expression possible of the many soils and grapes he farms.
Jean-François Ganevat doesn't have a computer, doesn't use email, has no website as far as I can tell, has never been to the US, and is not particularly interested in promoting his wines. Ganevat's US importer Jeffrey Alpert also has no website and doesn't shout about these wines. They are just beginning to become a regular presence on the shelves of those retailers who care about Jura wine, and this is a testament to how good the wines really are - it's almost as if they are being kept a secret, and yet people are finding them.
I've had only limited experience with the wines, but so far I'm a fan. I drank several bottles of Ganevat's Trousseau in the past two years and I like it very much, but it is very reductive upon opening and requires a serious decant. So do each of his reds actually, and of them it is the Poulsard (called Cuvée de l'Enfant Terrible) that I find most rewarding. The new vintage is 2009 and it's completely delicious.
At the dinner I tasted a red called J'en Veux for the first time. This is a field blend of 17 grapes, none of which are known to wine lovers or scientists. The 2009 happens to be the one estate wine that Ganevat de-stemmed entirely by hand. That's right - in 2009 he used a scissors to remove almost all of the stem from every grape that went into this wine. It is highly aromatic, with bright fruit and flowers, ample in the mouth, and it just feels good. Light in body, low in alcohol (11%), with lovely and intense flavors, this wine will fascinate and delight you if you can find it, and should cost about $30.
And by the way, shad roe with new potatoes and herbed mayonnaise was a great pairing with the red lineup. My first time eating shad roe (I know, I know) and it was an inspired pairing.
Until this dinner I'd had only a couple bottles of Ganevat white wine, and I must say that I was very impressed. Considering the lineup of whites as a whole, I think that they might be as good as any lineup of white wines that I've tasted from the Jura. There are wines made from Chardonnay, Melon-Queue-Rouge, and Savagnin, and there are ouille (topped up) and sous-voile (oxidized) styles.
Levi tested all of the wines before the dinner and at one point he said to me "The 2004 Les Chalasses...wow, it's drinking pretty well right now."
And indeed it was. This is Chardonnay from vines of over 100 years old. The wine is topped up, but like many topped up wines, it has something of the same oxidative character that you find in the whites that are raised sous-voile. Or maybe, this character is actually a function of the Jura terroir, not a result of the type of elevage. Anyway, we drank Les Chalasses from 2004 and 2008, and I thought they were both excellent wines. The 2008 was vibrant and pungently mineral with great freshness and a core of energy that bodes well for the cellar. Several people preferred it to the 2004, but on that night I preferred the mature and elegant grace of the 2004.
I loved the 1999 Les Vignes de Mon Père, a Savagnin from Chalasses vineyard, normally topped up, but this wine felt like a sous-voile wine (and Joe's article mentions that is because the wine was actually not topped up at the end of its elevage). The sous-voile wines were excellent too, including a show-stopping 2002 Vin Jaune.
The thing to take away here is that there are still great wine makers who make great wines that are not yet or just beginning to make it into the US. Jean-François Ganevat is one of them, and if you like Jura wine, these are worth a special search.